Goodbye Elm. HELLO MORELS!

My father had six sons (I’m number four). Five of us Nauman boys are avid motorcycle enthusiasts and three of us still call Central Illinois home. Of the three, Larry and Dave both have late model Honda 750 Shadows while my steed is an ancient 1981 Kawasaki KZ1100A. I bought it when it was new. The paint is faded from blue to purple, the seat is torn, it’s needed a new exhaust system for the past ten years, and when we ride I’m asked to be at the tail end of the group because they don’t want to “eat my rust”. Someday, when the budget allows, I’ll restore it rather than replace it because I’ve not seen any ride made since then that I like as much as this one. And it still goes faster than my reaction time so why tempt fate? Had I known it would last this long, I would have taken better care of it.

Cruising in the summer and fall, is one of our favorite pastimes. Winter in not practical and spring is impossible for me because of morel season. We simply take off with no particular place to go and no map needed. “Putting some wind in your hair” is one of the greatest stress reducers I know of. Read more

Mushroom Hunting: Beyond the Dead Elms

In another column we discussed the relationship between morel mushrooms and dead elms. Now let’s think about where else they might be. There are other trees that occasionally produce a good patch. Cottonwoods, either living or deceased can be good places to look. Old apple, peach or pear orchards are reportedly good also. In 1989, shroomers that hunted the bottom lands near the rivers found bumper crops. One family we know literally filled their bathtub.

In Germany, there is a law on the books that makes it illegal to set fire to forests in order to hasten morel mushroom growth. That’s right, any burned area of timber should produce morels. Please don’t torch the woods. If you do, don’t tell the police I told you to. It won’t help this season anyway, check a year or two after the burn.

Time Magazine in 1991 reported morels causing economic problems near Tok, Alaska. I seems there was a forest fire near Tok in 1990 that created an overwhelming crop of morels in June of 1991. The economic problems began because people were either quitting their jobs because they could make more by finding mushrooms and selling them to commercial buyers or those that kept their jobs were hunting mushrooms all night (it’s the land of the Midnight Sun) and falling asleep on the job. What a problem to have! We understand there was a huge burn near Juneau last summer. If one of the bus tour groups wants to organize a trip, I’ll be the first to sign up. Read more

Mushroom Hunting: Fall Mushrooms and “Road Hunting”

morelyellowI heard a great story last spring and I have to give credit to Conel Rogers from Pike County for relaying to me. There are several known methods of morel hunting. I prefer the “deep woods” method where one packs a lunch, a couple of water bottles, compass, etc. and spends all day on the search. An alternative method is called “Road Hunting” which is looking for appropriate dead elms from the pick-up truck. When one is spotted you stop the truck and go check it out. I can’t condone this method because if the landowner is also a morel hunter you may find the local law enforcement officials waiting for your return to the vehicle. (In one case the vehicle had been towed and its owner had to walk six miles to retrieve it, pay the towing fee, and then appear in court to face criminal trespass charges!).

Conel says the dead elms are rated according to the speed of the vehicle at which the tree can be spotted. A 65 m.p.h. tree is either right next to the road or so obvious to be a prime mushroom site that you can detect it at 65 m.p.h. (What speed limit?) Anyway, the legend goes that a mushroom hunter (it might even have been Conel) brought his pick-up to a screeching halt after spying a 65 m.p.h. tree, and ran over to check it out. Looking down at the ground he realized someone had beat him to the bounty because all he found was mushroom stumps. It was in his disappointment that he noticed a sign stapled to the tree that read: “You are the 34th person to check this tree. Please sign you name at the bottom and add one to the number above”. After laughingly complying with the instructions on the note he returned to the truck and noticed the road had been blackened by skid marks. He didn’t count them but there must have been at least enough for 33 other road hunters. Read more